Nevada Gaming Control Board Denies MLB Request to Ban Betting on Spring Training
The exhibition season of a professional sports league might be the most enjoyable time of the season to bet. Nobody knows jack squat about three-quarters of the players on the field or court, there is no rhyme or reason to play time, it’s just a mess. A glorious mess. It’s a time to throw caution to the wind and place your bets, knowing that neither you nor the book making really has any idea what the hell is going on. Major League Baseball (MLB) does not feel the same way, recently requesting that the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) put the kibosh on betting on spring training games. The NGCB said thank you for your input, but no.
In a statement, MLB explained its reasoning for the request:
Spring Training games are exhibition contests in which the primary focus of Clubs and players is to prepare for the coming season rather than to win games or perform at maximum effort on every single play. These games are not conducive to betting and carry heightened integrity risks, and states should not permit bookmakers to offer bets on them. Limited and historically in-person betting on Spring Training in one state did not pose nearly the same integrity risks that widespread betting on Spring Training in multiple states will pose.
The above statement is a little bit cryptic, but from what I gather, it seems that the league’s reasoning is that the team rosters are filled with minor league players who don’t make loads of money and therefore those players could be susceptible to influence from outside parties interested in betting on the game. Managers, too, could potentially be willing to mess with a game and everyone would think they just wanted to get certain guys playing to so they could be evaluated. Since the wins and losses don’t matter, nobody would bat an eye (no pun intended) at a team losing a game or a struggling pitcher getting an extra inning of work.
I am not sure how sports betting states other than Nevada is a problem. Really, I can’t think of a reason why this is part of the explanation from MLB.
“Based on our history and experience in regulating sports wagering, we are not inclined to prohibit our licensed sports books from taking wagers on MLB Spring Training games,” the NGCB replied. “We have a common goal to combat sports bribery and maintain the integrity of your sport, and are available to discuss ways we can work together in this effort.”
It’s Not All Bad News for MLB
In the meantime, MLB has made a deal with Sportradar to encourage further sports betting. The first part of the agreement will see Sportradar distribute official real-time statistics of the season’s games to sportsbooks and media outlets. Sportradar will only distribute the data, not collect it; that duty is for the league itself.
“A high-quality, reliable, and fast official data feed is the building block to creating engaging gaming products for MLB fans,” said MLB executive vice president of gaming and new business ventures Kenny Gersh in a press release. “Sportradar, a proven industry leader in data distribution, is perfectly positioned to help MLB deliver an exceptional Official MLB betting feed. We are excited about the opportunities that this partnership will unlock as the sports betting landscape continues to unfold in the U.S.”
The other part of the agreement will have Sportradar distribute audio and video feeds of live games to sportsbooks. The catch here is that they will only be given to international books, not ones in the United States. Sportradar does this with the NBA, as well.
It appears that the reason for the U.S. restriction has to do with domestic broadcast rights. ESPN, for example, would be none to pleased if a game it was airing on television and streaming online was also being streamed by a U.S. sportsbook, distributed by a company that was not Disney (the parent company of ESPN).
That’s not to say that U.S. sportsbooks will never receive some sort of sports streaming service. Sportradar’s head of strategic partnerships Steve Byrd told (coincidentally) ESPN, “I think you may see some international sports here streaming, as well as sports that are not as widely distributed with their broadcast rights in the U.S.”
The international sportsbooks (legal licensed, of course) will stream the live games for the customers while displaying possible live sports bets on the screen at the same time. For those who are into sports betting, it is a cool service that makes games that much more fun and engaging for the fans.